Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica said in an interview published Monday he is open to a referendum on a bill to have the government control and regulate marijuana sales and distribution.
The bill was passed by the lower house of Uruguay’s legislature last week and now awaits action by the Senate. Mujica’s leftist government supports it.
In putting the government in charge of the marijuana market, which is estimated to move 30 to 40 million dollars a year, the bill is designed to eliminate trafficking and the violence that goes with it.
But opposition parties are against the idea and a poll released last week said so are 63 percent of Uruguayans.
After last week’s vote, opposition lawmakers said that if the bill becomes law they will push for a referendum to overturn it.
Many Uruguayans are concerned the law will make foreign tourists think the small South American country is a great place to unwind with marijuana or something stronger.
Mujica told the newspaper La Republica on Monday that he hopes the opposition will seek a referendum so as to open up debate on the idea of government-regulated marijuana.
“If they do not do so, I am thinking of having the government propose one so the Uruguayan people understand all this and we can also discuss what our young people are up to,” Mujica, a doctor by training, was quoted as saying.
The president said that for all the money Uruguay spends fighting drug trafficking, the results are paltry.
The measure specifies that the government would assume control and regulation of the importation, planting, cultivation, harvesting, production, acquisition, storage, marketing and distribution of marijuana and its derivatives.
After registering, users would be able to cultivate up to six plants, gain access to the drug as part of a marijuana-growing club; or purchase up to 40 grams per month at a dispensary.
Under current law, possession of marijuana for personal use is permitted in Uruguay. Judges, however, can determine what quantity is considered appropriate for personal use.